‘A huge confidence boost’ — awarding £179,750 in grants for works in progress

Grant recipients Araba Ofori-Acquah, Constantine Alexander Blintzios, Hil Aked, Andrew Ziminski, Laura Theis, Jaye Elster
Clockwise from top left: Araba Ofori-Acquah, Constantine Alexander Blintzios, Hil Aked, Andrew Ziminski, Laura Theis, Jaye Elster
Teddy McDonald

Teddy McDonald

Teddy joined the SoA in February 2020 where he assists the Communications department and works on the SoA’s campaigning projects.
Hil Aked, Constantine Alexander Blintzios, Jaye Elster, Araba Ofori-Acquah, Laura Theis and Andrew Ziminski are among the recipients of our second 2022 round of Authors Foundation and K Blundell Trust awards for 2022.

The Society of Authors has awarded a total of £179,750 in financial grants to 69 authors to support the completion of their writing projects. The grants are part of the Authors’ Foundation and K Blundell Trust and are currently given twice yearly to afford authors time to write, to help with research costs or to otherwise fund their work.

The recipients of the November 2022 round of grants include investigative researcher and author Hil Aked, poet Laura Theis and Greek poet and writer Constantine Alexander Blintzios. Their writing projects range from memoirs examining the ‘courage and transformation’ of life as a quadriplegic, to a poetry collection about our relationship with the environment and the climate crisis, with a focus on the importance of hope and wonder, to the story of Britain’s medieval churches told ‘through their forgotten features, furnishings, and monuments.’

Starting in 2023, the grants will be awarded throughout the year, on a rolling basis, rather than in two rounds.

Hil Aked

‘Being awarded the John C Laurence Award, and knowing that others believe in my work, is a huge confidence boost.’

My book, forthcoming in 2023, is passionately partisan. It has been a labour of love and solidarity into which I have poured countless hours over several years. Focusing on British complicity in the oppression of Palestinians, it is an anti-racist analysis of the pro-Israel lobby which argues that we must strongly oppose both Israeli apartheid (and its supporters) and anti-Semitism. Writing about this topic, especially as a trans nonbinary person of colour, has often been a struggle. Being awarded the John C Laurence Award, and knowing that others believe in my work, is a huge confidence boost and I’m grateful to The Authors’ Foundation for its support.

Hil Aked (they/them) is a London-based writer, investigative researcher and campaigner with a background in political sociology whose work has appeared in the Guardian, Independent, Sky News and Al Jazeera, and volumes from Pluto Press and Zed Books/Bloomsbury. They have published numerous reports for NGOs and their first book Friends of Israel: The Backlash against Palestine Solidarity will be published by Verso in spring 2023.

Constantine Alexander Blintzios

‘Having this project recognised by the Society of Authors is a tremendously validating experience.’

I feel honoured and humbled to be entrusted with Katherine’s story. Receiving the Author’s Foundation Grant will be hugely beneficial to the writing process as this will include travel from Bristol to London monthly in order to interview her as well as trips to clinics and care facilities in the UK and Greece so as to interview medical staff, family and friends connected to her accident and rehabilitation. Having this project recognised by the Society of Authors is a tremendously validating experience as Katherine’s experience with severe spinal injury is one that should be told, circulated and truly seen.

Katherine Panagaki was left paralysed from the shoulders down at the age of twenty-one. Punk to Plegic is a memoir that explores every facet of living with severe spinal injury, taboo subjects concerning disability, courage and transformation. This memoir charts Katherine’s journey through her stages of recovery in the care systems of both Greece and the United Kingdom. The memoir will be a transparent insight into the everyday realities of being quaand shed light on areas that aren’t discussed openly in the public sphere. In doing so, the hope is to engage with disability in a way that is empowering and inclusive to the individual. The hidden aspects of disability and the ingrained societal and internalised shame that comes with it, are precisely what this memoir aims to target, combat and overturn. Katherine’s story is an incredibly personal one, but through segregating her memoir into specific topics and exploring those at length, I hope to create clear windows of insight into the complexity of her life-changing experience covering as much ground as possible and exposing both the strengths and pitfalls of care systems in two different countries and cultures. Ultimately Katherine’s memoir is a story of strength, self-realisation and incredible courage — traits which are invaluable to readers that are both disabled and able-bodied.

Katharine Panagki

C. A Blintzios is a Greek/British writer. He has a background in music and Contemporary Art and holds an Mst in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford. He has had poetry, short stories and reviews published in journals such as Visual Verse, Ash magazine, Paris Lit-Up, the Oxonian Review and the Literary Review. His poem ‘Where I am From’ was shortlisted for the 2017 Martin Starkie awards, he was long-listed for the 2019 DISQUIET fiction prize. In 2021, his manuscript was longlisted for the Laxfield Literary Launch Prize and was a finalist for the international Eyelands Book Awards. His debut novel The Smoke is me, Burning was published in March 2022 by KERNPUNKT Press (US). He is currently a PhD candidate researching the hypnagogic glimpse, otherness and buried selves at the University of Bristol.

Jaye Elster

‘To be the recipient of the Michael Meyer award feels particularly meaningful because it recognises the urgency with which Swings need support.’

The publication of my textbook How to Swing in Musical Theatre, projected for the end of the year, will share a career’s worth of practical experience and a decade of research with its readers to bring structure and awareness to the most underestimated job in musical theatre. Swings are an integral part of the day-to-day running of musicals, required to perform regularly, in a variety of different roles to cover any number of cast absences. Characteristically, their workload is boundless and everchanging, which is largely to blame for a near total absence of educational material. 

To be the recipient of the Michael Meyer award feels particularly meaningful because it recognises the urgency with which Swings need support. Without doubt, as a consequence of the challenges presented during and after the pandemic, many productions would have closed prematurely if it were not for the Swings that stepped in to keep the curtain up. 

The grant will contribute greatly towards affording me the time to make careful considerations and ensure that the full potential of the teaching content is realised. Specifically, I want to thank the Trust for recognising the need for this book which has given me a much-needed dose of encouragement and a vote of confidence as I enter the final publishing stages. I very much hope that with improved education, we will see a wider appreciation of Swings and a surge in young performers who aspire to take on the unique challenges of the role.

Jaye Elster began her career as a professional actress and quickly found her feet in both Dance Captain and Swing roles. West End credits include ‘Half a Sixpence’ (Noël Coward Theatre), ‘Matilda the Musical’ (Cambridge Theatre) and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (Palace Theatre) – a production she later provided additional choreography for, and which can now be seen at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Canada following an international tour. Today, she works predominantly in creative roles and is the current Resident Director on the UK touring production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’.  Outside of performing, Jaye is a passionate guest lecturer for some of the UK’s top musical theatre institutions. She would say her early reputation as a Swing is largely responsible for her continued success in an ever-challenging industry hence her fervent pursuit of better swing training and support for future young performers. 

Araba Ofori-Acquah

‘The grant which accompanies this award will provide much-needed time, space and peace of mind to allow me to continue pouring into this project the energy and love it deserves.’

I am incredibly honoured to have been awarded a World of Books Impact Award from the Society of Authors. My book is intended to be a healing and empowerment tool for Black people around the world, and especially the Black British community, so to be recognised by such a prestigious organisation for the positive impact this book will have is extremely affirming. The grant which accompanies this award will provide much-needed time, space and peace of mind to allow me to continue pouring into this project the energy and love it deserves.

‘Return to Source: Unlock the Power of African-centred Wellness’ will be published by Hay House in April 2023. It is an invitation for Black people around the world to reconnect with the wisdom and practices of our Ancestors as a route to healing and belonging. In it, I discuss identity, African history, decolonisation and the common cultural threads that we can now reclaim as a tool for our wellbeing and growth. The wellness and personal development space so often excludes Black people and African knowledge – my hope is that this book can go some way to correcting that. This award from the Society of Authors will be a welcome tool in helping me achieve my mission!

Araba Ofori-Acquah is a healer, writer and cultural curator interested in the preservation and reimagining of African tradition for the healing and empowerment of the global Black community. Writing creative non-fiction, short stories and poetry, Araba explores identity, mental health, the female experience and the many shades of Blackness. Her pieces are published or forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including those published by the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing and Jalada Africa.

Araba’s journey to becoming a healer began with herself, through experiencing first-hand the power of talking therapies, mind and body practices and meditation. Inspired to create safe spaces for other Black people, Araba studied different healing modalities, including a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training in India, an NHS-accredited Wellbeing Coach qualification and the study of Advanced Pranic Healing in Ghana. Drawing on her experiences as a Ghanaian-British woman who searched in vain for ways to achieve wellbeing that felt authentic and in alignment with her African identity, Araba’s debut book is a timely guide that gives readers an insight into traditional African knowledge; with a view to making it relevant and accessible to Black people of any religion or spiritual belief who simply want to live well.

Brimming with hard-earned wisdom from seldom reached sources, ‘Return to Source: Unlock the Power of African-centred Wellness’ is much more than a personal development book. It is an accessible, powerful and practical guide to rediscovery and reconnection for Black people, that leads readers through unlocking the power of soul-affirming wellness practices.

Laura Theis

‘I will have the opportunity to keep writing, editing, and completing this work with the financial backing and invaluable encouragement bestowed by this grant.’

I am so incredibly grateful that this Authors’ Foundation Grant, the Arthur Welton Award, will enable me to continue with my new poetry work-in-progress, following on from my debut “how to extricate yourself”. This new collection of poems will explore themes of grief, loss, feminism and our connection to the natural world through the combination of nature poetry with speculative elements and myth. It addresses urgent matters such as the strength and resilience of women, as well as our relationship to the environment and the climate crisis, with a focus on the importance of hope and wonder, viewed through the lens of an exophonic poet. I feel so honoured and thankful that I will have the opportunity to keep writing, editing, and completing this work with the financial backing and invaluable encouragement bestowed by this grant.

Laura Theis writes in her second language. Her work has been widely anthologized and appears across the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Indonesia, Canada and the USA in venues such as Poetry, Mslexia, Rattle, Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, Aesthetica, harana, Jellyfish Review, etc. Some of her latest poetry is forthcoming in anthologies by Candlestick Press, Broken Sleep Books, Pan Macmillan, Live Canon and Off Topic Press. Her Elgin-Award-nominated debut ‘how to extricate yourself’, an Oxford Poetry Library Book-of-the-Month, won the Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize. She was the recipient of the AM Heath Prize, Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize, Mogford Prize, Hammond House International Literary Award, and a Forward Prize nomination. Currently shortlisted for the Women Poets’ Prize, she has been a finalist for numerous literary awards including the National Poetry Competition, the Bridport Prize, the BBC Short Story Award, and the Alpine Fellowship. She has an MSt (Distinction) in Creative Writing from Oxford University.

Andrew Ziminski

‘I am enormously grateful as this will allow me to give up my regular Stonemasonry work for a good while, to further develop the Church Going idea’

Andrew aims to develop further those threads of connection with the past and build on the success of The Stonemason with a second book provisionally entitled Church Going, where he will tell the story of Britain’s medieval churches through their forgotten features, funishings and monuments. From gurning gargoyles to the fading strokes of superstitious graffiti, Church Going will share a church craftsman’s very personal view and understanding of the odd assemblage of features and artworks that combine to make a parish church.

I left school at 16 and so the Authors Foundation grant will be the first Grant I have ever received. I am enormously grateful as this will allow me to give up my regular Stonemasonry work for a good while, to further develop the Church Going idea with my Agent and submit a proposal to publishers.

Andrew Ziminski is a working Stonemason and writer based in Frome, Somerset. He specialises in the conservation of ancient Churches, bridges and archaeological sites. He talks widely, teaches and demonstrates his craft at museums and festivals. Ziminski is a William Morris Craft Fellow at the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Andrews first book, The Stonemason, was published in March 2020 on his 53rd birthday by John Murray to many excellent reviews. Robert Leigh-Pemberton’s review in The Sunday Telegraph reflected that “In attempting to reconnect us to this continuous narrative of English history and architecture, Ziminski is undertaking something more profound than the charm of this delightful book first suggests. Delicate as the threads that tie us to the past can seem, thanks to work like Ziminski’s, both as mason and as author, we can hope they will remain unbroken.”

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